Guatemala

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Guatemala

Postby katorpus » Mon Apr 27, 2009 2:43 pm

George

I'm returning to Uspantan for my second medical mission trip up there. My wife, younger daughter, and I went last summer and my oldest daughter went during both of the preceding two summers. All four of us are going this trip.

Our group of 85 people did 72 major surgeries, saw 1,600 people in medical, vision, and dental clinics, and installed 150 Onil stoves in the huts that the indigenous Mayans live in. My wife's an OB-GYN surgeon, and I am the "MacGuyver" for the trip...keeping things working with duct tape, solder, baling wire, and whatever is needed. We work in an old US-built hospital that's basically sealed up except for the 10 days a year that we are there...so there's a lot of deterioration of systems and infrastructure...even though they do keep it spotlessly clean.

Last year we swapped a refrigeration compressor out of the morgue body cooler for the dead one in the walk-in refrigerator...you might be mildly interested to learn that propane works just fine if no freon is available (no, we didn't LEAVE it charged when we left the hospital). I also stopped the drips in about 2 dozen rotted-out P-traps under sinks by wrapping them with surgical gloves overlayed with electrical tape. Since all of the faucet stems are shot and the water in the sinks basically runs most of the time whenever the pumps are going, that can be a lot of drip.

None of the flourescent lights in the building work except for the ones where we have replaced magnetic ballasts with electronic ballasts...the "local" who oversees the generator (which kicks in whenever the power grid goes down...which is several times a day) was "taught" that the way to conserve funds was to cut back on the rpm's to the point where the generator is still producing the requisite voltage...which, of course, means that it's producing about 40 cycles...way uncool for motors, transformers, and a lot of electrical goodies. The only thing it DOESN'T seem to affect is the tungsten light bulbs, but the surges do those in with great regularity. Needless to say, all of our sensitive medical (and computer) equipment is run from an uninterruptible power supply, although we have had some unfortunate losses over the years.

We actually carted a laparoscopic tower down with us last year and did the first lap surgeries in the whole country...in a rural hospital in the mountains, 70 miles out of Guatemala City (and 7 hours on a paved road).

It's a lot like being out on a boat...without the boat...you do what you have to do with whatever you have available.

This is all done under the umbrella of HELPS International (based in Dallas, TX) who've been doing this for 25 years now...

go to http://helpsinternational.org for more info on some of what we do. The stove project is particularly interesting...something over 50,000 have been put in to date.
Last edited by GeoffSchultz on Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Topic split from Anti-Spam discussion
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Re: Guatemala

Postby THATBOATGUY » Tue Apr 28, 2009 2:59 pm

John,

Good on you. I'd be happy to be McGiver's assistant if you need one although I can't even afford my own fair down. As for the board... I'll help any way I can any time. Probably between the three of us we can keep things going OK.

Geoff,

Lots of controversy over the Rio these days with me coming down on the side of more open information about the risks of going there (along with telling people about the beauty too of course) while fighting what seems to be a very trenched ex-pat economy that wants to white wash everything. Apparently they have hired guns on the river now as well as in the marinas. I'd be interested in your observations (privately).

George
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Re: Guatemala

Postby GeoffSchultz » Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:17 pm

Hi guys,

I split this discussion off of the anti-spam discussion as it was going pretty far off topic...

Anyhow...John...that's pretty cool. We've spent a lot of time in the Rio and love Guatemala. It certainly is a diverse place. We're still very active with a gentleman known as the Jungle Medic, who works out of the Rio Dulce area providing free medical and dental care to the Mayan Indians. Every year Sue & I ship hundreds of lbs of supplies to teams who are going down there. I also designed and maintain his web site, http://www.JungleMedicMissions.org I expect that we'll be in the Rio area next year for hurricane season and will be working in person with him again. I heard about the Onil stoves on a NPR story earlier this year and talked to Bryan (the Jungle Medic) about it, but I think that it's just more than he can handle. Although, respiratory illness due to cooking over open fires is one of the major causes of their need for medical care.

George, regarding the Rio. I keep in pretty close contact with people down there and I must say that it doesn't seem to be getting worse. There have been a few incidents lately, including the stabbing and death of a cruiser, but things do just happen. You need to be aware and not date the locals...Once you do the later, you quickly find out about the dark underbelly of the area. If you keep your nose clean, you can pretty much avoid having to look under the rugs, as lots of stuff gets swept there.

I must admit that we had quite an adventure there. If you want to read the story, which is titled "Fire and Extortion at Tortugal Marina", you can find it here http://www.geoffschultz.org/Log_Page.php?id=1127. Needless to say, Guatemala isn't Kansas.

-- Geoff
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Re: Guatemala

Postby THATBOATGUY » Wed May 06, 2009 12:34 pm

Hey thanks for the link Geoff,

I am all for getting the word out about the Rio. What a wonderful place but it is the wild west and getting the word out is good cruiser neighbor thing to do.

Is it OK for me to post a link to your blog entry in another sailing forum?

George
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Re: Guatemala

Postby GeoffSchultz » Wed May 06, 2009 10:56 pm

George,

Feel free to post a link anywhere. I'm not hiding anything and it might be eye opening to some people.

-- Geoff
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Re: Guatemala

Postby GeoffSchultz » Sun May 10, 2009 9:10 pm

George,

I guess you posted a link to my page about Tortugal marina. I just noted 24 hits on that page in recent days. Looks like you generated a bit of heat...I thought about jumping into the conversation, but I have faith that there are a lot of people who just don't understand what cruising out of the US is about. The cultures are completely different. You can't apply many of the rules that you think should apply.

-- Geoff (in Milwaukee for Mother's Day)
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Re: Guatemala

Postby THATBOATGUY » Tue May 12, 2009 1:28 pm

Yeah Geoff,

Honestly I was shocked at the number of point-missers on that thread. The topic has been a hotly contested one in recent weeks going back to the murder on the Rio last hurricane season. You are probably right to just let it slide on L&A. I was stupid to post the link into that climate.

George
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